Someone else will do it
Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

Someone else will do it

September 7, 2022 David Slack

Social media is always super excited to let me know about clever new technology. The latest recommendation is the Laundry Jet, a domestic revolution in a tube! Tired of walking to the laundry? A vacuum-powered laundry chute whisks away your dirty T-shirts and socks from any room with a Laundry Jet port installed. Off it goes, to be taken care of by… well, who knows, who cares, right?! Maybe a robot, maybe poor old mum.


The online demonstration had a couple of teenage boys sauntering past the chute and casually chucking their washing into it to be sucked away, out of sight and mind. They looked quite oblivious to anything other than the annoyance of having had to deal with dirty clothes at all. I suppose a person of warmer disposition might say, ‘Gosh, isn't it exciting; don't you love the future,’ or even, ‘That takes me back to the good old days when those department stores moved everything by tube. Funny how the past can become the future.’


Grate pains

But what I see in the casual, dare I say slovenly, way these males are biffing laundry into the tubes is a certain kind of laziness routinely enabled and encouraged by modern life. Can't be bothered making spaghetti bolognese or at least beans on toast? Can't bear the ordeal of standing for a few minutes in a takeaway? No problem, keep those feet right there on the sofa, Uber Eats have got you covered, bro… Grating cheese too arduous? No worries, here's a packet of it, all grated for you. No need to stop and compare prices with a block of the stuff… Love having a dog but don't feel like actually walking it? No problem! Call our walking service!


I will readily acknowledge that all of these services may have a valid basis. I accept that they may create earning opportunities for somebody and all the rest of it. But it niggles me. It makes me uneasy about the direction it might be taking us, this consumer-indulgence culture.


(Ready peeled) couch potatoes

The movie WALL-E depicts a humanity that has so comprehensively trashed, drained and burned up the planet that its coddled inhabitants have become useless lounger-bound lumps being transported away into space to some alternative Planet B future.


I'm not saying laundry suction chutes and Uber Eats will ruin us. But also I am! They feel emblematic of a world that sees a climate crisis and then buys a bigger ute. A world that blithely assumes someone will figure out a solution for the climate crisis, so we can just keep doing what we’re doing. It feels as though things might not start getting better until people stop expecting everything to arrive on a plate.


George Monbiot’s new book Regenesis lays out something of a WALL-E scenario, but without the endearing qualities of Pixar’s movie. He wrote that by 2050 humanity will need twice as much food as it does today, even though the planet's production capacity is already red-lining. Only radical change can deliver us from this peril. Monbiot lays out options – which, reassuringly, do in fact exist, even if they’re pretty wild – such as microbial proteins 3D-printed into steaks and escalopes, or formed into sausages and nuggets. Never mind the Laundry Jet, look what’s coming for dinner!


And that brings us to the crucial point: there is a lightbulb. We just have to want to change it. Our problem is not a lack of solutions, it's a lack of will and purpose. I’m thankful for all the people who don't shrug their shoulders, who have the determination to do what is necessary to carry us forward. So much disaster can be averted simply by lifting ourselves out of complacency, by not making our lives easier and more indulged than is good for us.


We need to be leaning into this, or at a bare minimum walking down to the laundry, hanging out the washing and thinking about what else we might do.



David Slack is an Auckland-based author, radio and TV commentator and speechwriter, and a regular columnist for NZ Optics.